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Reader’s Request is as the same suggests. You choose what I write about. Today, a salutary lesson in sports obsession. In the coming weeks, a deep dive into thumb wrestling. Leave your requests in the comments section.
Somewhere between elite sportspeople and weekend joggers is a class of athlete I call the nutbag.
Not for them an easy five-kilometre jaunt before breakfast or those laughable frolics called fun runs. The nutbag isn’t interested in fun. In their athletic pursuits there is only punishment.
They set their sights on the most gruelling of endurance events and train like maniacs for months on end. They obsess about distances covered and increments of time.
For the most part, we view these people from afar, where we can marvel at their particular brand of lunacy from a safe distance. Every so often, though, you find a nutbag in your midst. The person you least expect can become a nutbag without warning.
Let’s be honest. A tour of Ireland is just an extended pub crawl on wheels. There’s the odd cliff top where you can snap a photo to prove you did some sightseeing but really everyone’s there for the Guinness.
Our group, like so many before and since, subsided on three square meals of the soupy black brew each day and, it being December, hot whisky snacks thrown in to stop us freezing to death.
Yes, we basically drank our way around Ireland. When in Rome…
I had no way of knowing then that Troy would become a nutbag. The signs didn’t emerge until years later when I turned up for dinner with him and his wife and he wasn’t drinking.
“I’m in training,” he announced, outlining a regime that incorporated daily pre-dawn runs and bike rides to work halfway across the city.
“What the…?” I asked his other half when he was out of the room. She rolled her eyes and shrugged, clearly lost for words. She was living with a stranger.
“Don’t worry,” I consoled her, topping up our glasses. “It won’t last.”
It did last. It’s been years now. Nothing seems to deter him. Not the death threats of his missus after he ended up in an ambulance during the 2011 Sydney Marathon. Not the successful completion of the Macleay River Marathon nine months later.
And not the proximity of endurance events to important festive occasions. Recently, he celebrated his 40th birthday, not with a cracking shindig like most of us but by flogging his arse around the Port Macquarie ironman course, otherwise known as a meeting of Nutbags Anonymous, for more than 14 hours.
For the uninitiated, the event entails a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and then you run a marathon. After that, you book yourself in for a lobotomy.
I’m writing about Troy today for a number of reasons. Partly it’s a public service for those readers who may have a nutbag in their circle of family and friends. Know that you are not alone.
Partly it’s an intervention to highlight the madness of these pursuits before he goes all Cliff Young on us or decides to embark on something really difficult like the six-day Sahara Desert Marathon.
Partly, I have to admit, it’s recognition that completing an ironman, or a marathon for that matter, is really bloody impressive.
Partly it’s relief that he has largely escaped mishap in these endeavours when sadly not everyone does.
And partly it’s to stop him asking, as he does whenever I see him, “Where’s my blog?”
Here’s your blog, Troy. You’re welcome. Nutbag.
If you are dealing with a nutbag, please share your burden here.